Wesleyan Makes Tests Optional in Admissions

Kate CarlisleMay 7, 20142min

Both the SAT and the ACT tests will be optional for high school applicants to Wesleyan University starting next fall, President Michael S. Roth announced this week.

The tests, given annually to about three million students in 170 countries, have been part of the Wesleyan admissions process for many years. Wesleyan has required either the SAT with two subject tests, or the ACT. Now the university joins several hundred institutions, including many of its peer colleges, in making the tests optional.

While students’ academic records will continue to be most important in Wesleyan’s admissions decisions, as they always have, applicants may choose whether or not to submit test scores.

“We’ve always been most concerned about the day-to-day work of our applicants, in a rigorous academic program,” said Nancy Hargrave Meislahn, Wesleyan’s dean of admission and financial aid. “This option provides students more control over their applications, how best to present themselves to the admission committee.”

University administrators are unconvinced that the 88-year-old exam—or the “younger” ACT —always accurately reflects college potential, and believe that it can unfairly advantage privileged applicants.

“We’re skeptical about the value of the SAT in predicting college success,” Roth said. “Scores don’t necessarily add much to student applications; what’s more, we believe they can skew the advantage toward students from privileged backgrounds, or those who can afford test prep.”

Meislahn cited compelling new research from 33 colleges and universities with score-optional policies that finds little difference in academic success between those who submit scores and those who don’t. Score-optional schools also have seen a more racially and socio-economically diverse pool of candidates.

“Wesleyan is committed to diversity and inclusion,” she said. “We’re actively recruiting students from under-served communities, students of color and first-generation scholars. We believe that making test scores optional will provide more access.”